The Case of the City Clerk: An Agatha Christie Short Story

The Case of the City Clerk: An Agatha Christie Short Story
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A classic Agatha Christie short story, available individually for the first time as an ebook.Parker Pyne arranges for a mild-mannered clerk with a passion for suspense novels to do some real-life spy work. But fact can be stranger than fiction…

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The Case of the City Clerk

A Short Story

by Agatha Christie

Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

Copyright © 2008 Agatha Christie Ltd.

Cover Layout Design © HarperCollinsPublishers 2014

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

HarperCollinsPublishers has made every reasonable effort to ensure that any picture content and written content in this ebook has been included or removed in accordance with the contractual and technological constraints in operation at the time of publication.

Source ISBN: 9780007438983

Ebook Edition © MARCH 2014 ISBN: 9780007560097

Version: 2017-04-13

‘The Case of the City Clerk’ was first published in the USA as ‘The Clerk Who Wanted Excitement’ in Cosmopolitan, August 1932, and then as ‘The £10 Adventure’ in Strand Magazine, November 1932.

Mr Parker Pyne leaned back thoughtfully in his swivel chair and surveyed his visitor. He saw a small sturdily built man of forty-five with wistful, puzzled, timid eyes that looked at him with a kind of anxious hopefulness.

‘I saw your advertisement in the paper,’ said that little man nervously.

‘You are in trouble, Mr Roberts?’

‘No, not in trouble exactly.’

‘You are unhappy?’

‘I shouldn’t like to say that either. I’ve a great deal to be thankful for.’

‘We all have,’ said Mr Parker Pyne. ‘But when we have to remind ourselves of the fact it is a bad sign.’

‘I know,’ said the little man eagerly. ‘That’s just it! You’ve hit the nail on the head, sir.’

‘Supposing you tell me all about yourself,’ suggested Mr Parker Pyne.

‘There’s not much to tell, sir. As I say, I’ve a great deal to be thankful for. I have a job; I’ve managed to save a little money; the children are strong and healthy.’

‘So you want – what?’

‘I – I don’t know.’ He flushed. ‘I expect that sounds foolish to you, sir.’

‘Not at all,’ said Mr Parker Pyne.

By skilled questioning he elicited further confidences. He heard of Mr Roberts’ employment in a well-known firm and of his slow but steady rise. He heard of his marriage; of the struggle to present a decent appearance, to educate the children and have them ‘looking nice’; of the plotting and planning and skimping and saving to put aside a few pounds each year. He heard, in fact, the saga of a life of ceaseless effort to survive.

‘And – well, you see how it is,’ confessed Mr Roberts. ‘The wife’s away. Staying with her mother with the two children. Little change for them and a rest for her. No room for me and we can’t afford to go elsewhere. And being alone and reading the paper, I saw your advertisement and it set me thinking. I’m forty-eight. I just wondered … Things going on everywhere,’ he ended, with all his wistful suburban soul in his eyes.

‘You want,’ said Mr Pyne, ‘to live gloriously for ten minutes?’

‘Well, I shouldn’t put it like that. But perhaps you’re right. Just to get out of the rut. I’d go back to it thankful afterwards – if only I had something to think about.’ He looked at the other man anxiously. ‘I suppose there’s nothing possible, sir? I’m afraid – I’m afraid I couldn’t afford to pay much.’

‘How much could you afford?’

‘I could manage five pounds, sir.’ He waited, breathless.

‘Five pounds,’ said Mr Parker Pyne. ‘I fancy – I just fancy we might be able to manage something for five pounds. Do you object to danger?’ he added sharply.

A tinge of colour came into Mr Roberts’ sallow face. ‘Danger did you say, sir? Oh, no, not at all. I – I’ve never done anything dangerous.’

Mr Parker Pyne smiled. ‘Come to see me again tomorrow and I’ll tell you what I can do for you.’

The Bon Voyageur is a little-known hostelry. It is a restaurant frequented by a few habitués. They dislike newcomers.

To the Bon Voyageur came Mr Pyne and was greeted with respectful recognition. ‘Mr Bonnington here?’ he asked.

‘Yes, sir. He’s at his usual table.’

‘Good. I’ll join him.’

Mr Bonnington was a gentleman of military appearance with a somewhat bovine face. He greeted his friend with pleasure.

‘Hallo, Parker. Hardly ever see you nowadays. Didn’t know you came here.’

‘I do now and then. Especially when I want to lay my hand on an old friend.’

‘Meaning me?’

‘Meaning you. As a matter of fact, Lucas, I’ve been thinking over what we were talking about the other day.’

‘The Peterfield business? Seen the latest in the papers? No, you can’t have. It won’t be in till this evening.’

‘What is the latest?’

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